Caught in the Web: Pacers Hope to Avoid "Self-Inflicted Wounds"

by Jeff Tzucker

Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Pacers Hope to Avoid "Self-Inflicted Wounds"

by Conrad Brunner

May 22, 2012

As brilliantly as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade performed in Game 4, the Pacers felt they were victims as much of their own mistakes as the heroics of Miami's dynamic duo.

As David West put it: "We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds."

The most painful was foul trouble that limited the minutes and impact of West and Roy Hibbert. As they prepare for Game 5 tonight in AmericanAirlines Arena, the Pacers know they must find a way to keep their big men on the floor.

"I thought it was a matter of when you got 7-2 on the bench because of foul trouble, that's almost a self-inflicted wound," West said. "They took advantage of that, particularly in the third quarter."

When Hibbert went to the bench with four after an offensive foul midway through the third, Miami led 64-63. West picked up his fourth shortly thereafter as the lead quickly grew to 76-66. When the two returned with 8:11 remaining, Miami led 86-81 and the Pacers would get no closer in a 101-93 defeat.

The Pacers had similar problems in their Game 1 loss in Miami, as Hibbert picked up his fourth foul midway through the third period with the score tied. When he returned in the fourth, Miami was up six on its way to a 95-86 win.

"When we're able to play our normal rotation, we're very tough to beat," Coach Frank Vogel said. "When we have guys in foul trouble and we're trying to patch in some lineups, that's when we've struggled in this series. Our guys are very fully aware of the need to stay out of foul trouble and the need to play without fouling.

"Wade and James had one foul each the entire game and you watch the game and it wasn't because of any calls. They play without fouling. That's what you learn from going on deep playoff runs like they've been on. LeBron's been to the Finals twice. Wade's won a championship. By doing that, you recognize the importance you have to your team and the need to have yourself on the court. Our guys are learning that lesson. They understand the need to play foul-free basketball."

Indiana Pacers Center Roy Hibbert goes for a hook shot over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Second Round

Pacers Try to Make James, Wade Work Harder

That James and Wade have been dominant in Miami's two wins has been well-documented: 132 of the team's 196 points (67.3 percent) overall, 85 of 108 (78.7 percent) in the second half.

It would be unrealistic to expect the defense to somehow shut down the two Heat superstars but the Pacers believe the key lies in making their opportunities more difficult.

"I thought (Sunday) was the first time they got easy stuff," West said. "Wade got some easy dunks, easy layups; LeBron the same thing. Up to that point they had been fighting and scrapping and working for those. When you get 40 points, you're going to get some easy ones and we gave up too many easy ones."

In Miami's two wins, James and Wade combined to score 131 points on 99 shots (1.32 points per field goal attempt). In Indiana's two wins, they produced 79 points on 79 shots.

"We've just got to make them work harder than we did in the second half to get their shots," Vogel said. "They made some great plays. They made some superhero plays but we gave them some easy ones, too, and we've got to make sure they work for everything they get."

Though the two have played heavy minutes (42.5 for James, 38.9 for Wade) and Wade reportedly is battling a sore knee that needed to have fluid drained last Wednesday, the Pacers don't expect either to show signs of fatigue.

"I don't anticipate that," Vogel said. "They're two of the best. I don't think I've ever seen them wear down so I'm not anticipating that. I'm expecting their best for 48 minutes."

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Granger's Temper Getting Expensive

Though Danny Granger insists he is sending a message to the Heat with his willingness to confront both James and Wade, he's paying pretty heavy postage.

Granger has picked up technical fouls in each of the last three games. The first two came with $2,000 fines, the third a $3,000 penalty, so he already has lost $7,000 of his playoff share. Fines increase to $4,000 with the fifth technical and an automatic suspension comes with the seventh.

"I just think we have to send a message as a team that we won't back down," Granger said. "They are kind of the media darlings of the NBA right now and they get a lot of publicity and what-not and it just basically sends the message Indiana basketball is about playing tough, playing every possession, and we're really not afraid of anybody."

Pacers Look to Improve 3-Point Shooting

Though the Pacers took a 25-18 lead after one quarter in Game 4, they viewed it as a lost opportunity because they shot just 3 of 11 from the 3-point line, missing multiple open looks that could've provided a much bigger lead.

"We could've easily had a double-digit lead in the first quarter," Vogel said. "Even when that lineup we were playing while we were waiting for David and Roy to get back in, that small lineup had some great, wide-open looks to start the fourth quarter that didn't fall. Sometimes it's about making shots, not making shots.

"What I like is our ball movement is spectacular and our passing is spectacular. As long as that persists and we continue to get good looks, then we'll have a good chance."

The Pacers are shooting 32.4 percent from the arc for the series, 11 of 39 (28.2 percent) in their two losses.

"In a playoff series, a lot of emotions are running through you," Granger said. "We've had some open looks that just really didn't go down but in the same instance Miami had some in I think the third game that didn't go down. Sometimes you shoot it well, sometimes you don't.

"More importantly you have to make the right play, make the right pass and we did that (Sunday). We shot 7 for 22 from the three but after we looked at the tape we had about eight open looks that just didn't go down. If we make half of those it may have been a different ballgame."

Homecourt Advantage? What's That?

Though much was made of Miami regaining homecourt advantage with its Game 4 win, the Pacers are undaunted. They have a better record on the road (3-1) than at home (3-2) in the postseason, winning both games in Orlando in the first round and Game 2 in Miami.

"We feel comfortable in our ability to go compete at a high level on other peoples' courts," West said. "I don't think our confidence is wavering."

The Pacers were 19-14 on the road during the regular season, behind only Chicago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

"We're the third- or fourth-best road team in the NBA and the first four games of this series has proven that homecourt advantage means nothing," Vogel said. "They split here, we split there. We know we can win in their building; we can win in any building in the NBA. We have that confidence."

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George Picked for USA Select Team

Paul George's summer just got a little busier.

The second-year shooting guard was named to the USA Basketball Select team, a group of young players that will train against the national team July 6-12 in Las Vegas.

"That's great. It's just going to help him grow," Vogel said. "He's so young, it's not like we're talking about a 33-year-old player that needs to rest his legs in the summertime. He needs to grow and learn and be around great players and play against great players. I think it's great for him."

Others named to the team were Kyrie Irving (Cleveland), John Wall (Washington), Ryan Anderson (Orlando), DeJuan Blair (San Antonio), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Derrick Favors (Utah), Taj Gibson (Chicago), Gordon Hayward (Utah), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Jeremy Lin (New York) and Klay Thompson (Golden State).

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